Hard to believe, but it’s already been a year since country star Garth Brooks let the thunder roll at the California Mid-State Fair.
The two-time Grammy Award winner played two sold-out shows at the Paso Robles Event Center with wife Trisha Yearwood back in July 2017.
“I haven’t played a fair in 100 years,” Brooks told nearly 15,000 fans packed into the Chumash Grandstand Arena on July 27, 2017. “But I’ll tell you what, I found one of the coolest freaking places on the planet!”
In June 2017, Brooks’ first fair concert became the fastest-selling show in fair history. Ticket buyers — the majority of them local fans — snapped up 14,875 seats in less than 30 seconds.
In response to the demand, Brooks added a second concert — which also sold out in less than a minute.
To prepare for the back-to-back shows — and an expected crowd of 50,000 fairgoers, 10,000 to 15,000 more than usual — the fair increased its number of free shuttle buses and stepped up traffic, security and crowd-control efforts with the help of local law enforcement and a pair of private companies.
Meanwhile, the CHP, Paso Robles Police Department and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office added extra patrols.
On July 27, 2017, the day of Brooks’ fair debut, temperatures at the fairgrounds soared into the high 90s. That didn’t stop fans from lining up more than two hours before Brooks’ first show.
By the time Brooks walked onto the Chumash Grandstand arena stage, anticipation had reached a fever pitch.
“Thanks for letting us come back to your great state of California to play our music,” Brooks told the cheering crowd after performing his song “Rodeo.” “And for the first time ever come to the ever-famous Paso Robles California Mid-State Fair. This is cool!”
He then launched into a setlist that included such hit songs as “The River,” “Unanswered Prayers” and “The Thunder Rolls.”
Yearwood, making her fourth fair appearance, joined Brooks for “In Another’s Eyes,” then went through her own list of hits including “Xxx’s And Ooo’s (An American Girl),” “How Do I Live” and “She’s In Love With The Boy.”
Then Brooks returned for another set that included “Callin’ Baton Rouge” and “Friends in Low Places.” For his encore, he took requests from the audience.
After a break, Brooks and Yearwood returned to the stage for their second consecutive concert.
“People, I know what you went through to get here, and I know it’s late, but we came here to raise some hell and have some fun,” Brooks said as fans urged him to start the second show. The concert wrapped up just past 2 a.m.
Brooks found time during his fair visit to meet backstage with Arroyo Grande High School graduate Jack Ventura.
The teen told Brooks about his friend, Ryan Teixeira, an Arroyo Grande High grad who died in March 2017 at age 20 after his second cancer diagnosis and the nonprofit Teixeira started before his death, 17 Strong. Ventura even gave Brooks a 17 Strong hat.
The fair’s 2018 lineup featured several big-name performers, including pop star Demi Lovato, rapper Pitbull and country acts Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Florida Georgia Line. But only one came close to matching Brooks at the box office.
Luke Bryan, the multi-platinum-selling country star behind “Kick the Dust Up” and “Strip It Down,” sold out his fair concert in less than three hours in March. He performed Thursday night for an ecstatic Chumash Grandstand Arena crowd that shook their collective booties to “Country Girl” and sang along to “That’s My Kind of Night.”
Country singer Eric Church, who performed July 21 at the fair, also had a sold-out show.
It’s not clear at this point how fair ticket sales in 2018 will compare to 2017, a blockbuster year for California Mid-State Fair. Concertgoers snapped up a total of 91,030 tickets last year, an impressive 21.6 percent boost from 2016.
The fair also saw slightly high attendance last year. About 428,615 people attended the fair during its 12-day run in 2017, compared to more than 410,000 in 2016.